SYRACUSE — A team of five visited Wawasee schools on a “whirlwind tour” and came away with a recommendation for accreditation for the school district. An exit report of the AdvancEd team’s findings was given by Dr. Michael Henry of Springfield, Ore., Wednesday afternoon, March 22, in the Warrior Room at Wawasee High School.
Henry was the leader of the AdvancEd team and noted the school district had conducted an internal review prior to the accreditation team’s arrival. The team arrived Sunday, March 19, and met with school board members and central office staff. Monday and Tuesday, they were kept extremely busy meeting with community members, stakeholders, teachers, administrators, support staff and students in each of the Wawasee schools.
Henry said the “domains” of impact of teaching and learning, capacity of leadership and use of resources were especially focused on during the accreditation grading process. The team also looked at college and career readiness data, student performance results, instructional quality, learner and family engagement, support services for student learning and curriculum quality and efficacy. The school district had four specific powerful practices and also some opportunities for improvement, which includes priority areas that are required to be addressed within two years.
The team met with the superintendent, all five school board members, 21 administrators, 213 students, 23 parents and community members, two support staff and 72 instructional staff members. Henry noted having all five board members show up is not so common and he has been to some school districts where only one member meets with the team.
Wawasee ranked higher than average in the specific areas including digital learning environment, equitable learning environment, supportive learning environment, high expectations environment and more. Henry noted one of the powerful practices of the school corporation is leadership and administrative staff promotes a culture of putting children first when making decisions. Team member Peggy Jackson-Jobe later said she consistently heard the themes of “family,” “respect” and “caring about kids” when she asked people to describe the Wawasee school district.
Another powerful practice is the school board ensures leadership has the freedom to meet goals for achievement and instruction and to manage day-to-day operations effectively.
Henry said continuous improvement efforts need to be more “systematic and strategic” and include leadership at all levels. There needs to be a research-based professional learning community model used throughout the school corporation to analyze assessments, drive instructional practices, utilize data to meet student needs and more. And there should be some type of an informal classroom walk through documentation tool used by administrators when evaluating teachers.
In addition, a process needs to be implemented to more effectively support the emotional and mental needs of families and students.
Overall, Wawasee scored a 275.12, slightly below average, and is considered to be performing within acceptable levels. A final, more detailed report will be submitted later to the school corporation.
Other accreditation team members included Kevin Emsweller, Janet Kruger and Karen York.